West Humboldt Park residents want Amazon to sign community benefits agreement on wages, local hiring

The West Humboldt Park Community Coalition is calling for Amazon to start wages at $28.50 per hour and ensure that 60% of employees at a new facility near Kostner and Division live in the community.

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Howard Ray Jr., with the West Humboldt Park Community Coalition, speaks at a press conference asking Amazon for a CBA for the new West Humboldt Park Amazon distribution facility. Wednesday, February, 23, 2022. | Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

West Humboldt Park residents are calling on their elected leaders to stop accepting donations from Amazon, saying it is hindering their ability to negotiate a community benefits agreement with the e-commerce giant.

“We are demanding all elected officials and non-profits to stop taking money from Amazon and return received money,” said Howard Ray, of the West Humboldt Park Community Coalition. “Stop capitalizing off the people and support West Humboldt Park in their fight to broker a CBA.”

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Ray wouldn’t say which elected officials were collecting donations from Amazon. He did say Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) has left her constituents in the dark since last year’s announcement that the facility would be built.

The West Humboldt Park Community Coalition includes residents and local activists. They said they’ve held several town hall meetings without Mitts’ help.

Mitts did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

An Amazon spokeswoman said the company is in active meetings with the community and looks to continue investing in Illinois.

The West Humboldt Park Amazon distribution facility is being built near Kostner Avenue and Division Street. Photo taken on Wednesday, February, 23, 2022.

The West Humboldt Park Amazon distribution facility is being built near Kostner Avenue and Division Street.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Amazon is slated to open a 140,000-square-foot delivery station by the end of the year. It is expected to bring 500 full- and part-time jobs to the West Side. The site is the Allied Metal property, at 1260 N. Kostner Ave. The project has Mitts’ support.

Last summer, Mitts said Amazon wasn’t seeking any city subsidies but the incoming West Humboldt Park delivery station sits in an Opportunity Zone, which qualifies it for tax breaks. Because the site is in an Opportunity Zone, if Amazon holds the property for at least 10 years, the company could potentially pay no taxes on any capital gains generated by that particular facility.

The West Humboldt Park Community Coalition wants hourly wages at the Amazon facility to start at $28.50, and for Amazon to ensure that 60% of employees at the Humboldt Park facility live in the community.

They also want Amazon to pay the property tax bills for homeowners in the community, though they do not specify how large an area that would cover or how much money that would cost.

The coalition also wants Amazon to help build a community training and recreation center, fight against pollution, traffic and crime in the community.

Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson joined residents outside the future Amazon delivery station — which is already partially constructed — and accepted the call to turn down any donations from Amazon.

“I’m calling on my colleagues who serve at every level of government to not take and accept money from corporations who do not want to pay their fair share in taxes,” Johnson said. “I am calling on my colleagues and other representatives that represent this community to stand with the interests of workers.”

Members of the West Humboldt Park Community Coalition held a news conference on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022 outside an under-construction Amazon facility at Kostner Avenue and Division Street.

Members of the West Humboldt Park Community Coalition held a news conference on Wednesday outside an under-construction Amazon facility, demanding that the online retailer sign a community benefits agreement that would, among other things, cover hourly wages and require a certain portion of employees be from the community.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

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